“Listen to your heart.” This timeless phrase could also read “ take care of your heart, so you will be able to hear.” There is a distinct connection between your ability to hear and your cardiovascular health. Be aware that every step you take for heart wellness also benefits your hearing health. Good cardiovascular health benefits your entire body including your ears so take excellent care of your heart, and your ears will benefit.
The Heart/Hearing Connection
A healthy cardiovascular system enables the heart, arteries, and veins to provide adequate blood flow throughout the body. When the blood vessels of the ears receive an inadequate amount of blood flow, hearing loss results. The auditory system is particularly sensitive to small changes in blood circulation. Researchers reviewing decades of studies are seeing a direct correlation between the auditory and cardiovascular systems.
The heart and cardiovascular system have the tremendous responsibility of providing oxygen and nutrients to the body including the inner ear. The fragile auditory nerve which sends sound signals to the brain for processing is highly sensitive to small fluctuations in this blood supply. The sensitivity to blood flow is so high that cardiovascular abnormalities could be noted here before other less sensitive areas of the body. Unlike other areas of the body, the inner ear does not have multiple connections for blood supply. The oxygen-rich blood supply, delivered via a single small artery, must supply the entire inner ear. Blood flows to the base where the high-pitch region resides and then to the apex where the low-pitched receptors are. Because of this anatomical arrangement, low-frequency sounds are the first to be affected by hearing dysfunction.
What You Can Do
16 Million Americans are estimated to have Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) according to the American Heart Association making it the number one killer of both men and women in the United States. Common risk factors for CAD include:
- High LDL cholesterol, high triglycerides, and low HDL cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Physical inactivity
- High saturated fat diet
Of course, some risk factors such as diabetes and hypertension are genetic. We can, however, choose to eat healthy meals, exercise, and avoid tobacco products. The Mayo Clinic provides a simple heart-healthy diet which is low in salt and fat to get you started. Get your hearing checked regularly as a reduction in hearing ability may be a sign of cardiovascular dysfunction.
As researchers continue to link heart health with hearing loss, it is now more important than ever to have your hearing checked by a qualified audiologist. A hearing evaluation will not only determine a hearing impairment, but it can also help find the best treatment. Good cardiovascular health has a positive impact on your entire body. It is therefore essential to eat healthy, exercise, and have regular physical exams. Remember that your ears and heart have a close relationship with each other, and by neglecting one, you will directly impact the other.
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